Ivica Kostelic ‘motivated’ to boost family’s medal haul

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KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia – Ivica Kostelic was greedy. The Croatian skier wanted gold and to tie an Olympic family record in the super combined Friday.

Kostelic, 34, was second to Swiss Sandro Viletta by .34 of a second in slushy snow at the Rosa Khutor Alpine Resort.

WATCH: Sandro Viletta steals gold in super-combined

He became the second oldest Olympic Alpine medalist, the first Alpine skier to win four Olympic silver medals – the only color he’s known – and the first Winter Olympian to win three straight silver medals in the same event.

Despite all that, he was first asked if he was disappointed with yet another silver.

“This is the question that is often said to me,” he said. “I’m obviously specialized in silver. Everyone likes the winners. The Americans, they say the second one is the first loser. This is not completely true.

“I could be in a hospital. I could be picking garbage in Calcutta or dying of hunger in Africa. Anyone who complains about silver or bronze doesn’t have the right to do so. Gold is the ultimate aim for us, but I’m happy with silver as well.”

In the heat of the moment, Kostelic said he was a bit unhappy when he crossed the finish and saw he was behind Viletta with six more racers to go.

But then Kostelic, as more racers finished behind the both of them, thought about the No. 10.

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Ten was on his mind before he skied into seventh place in the downhill portion of the event Friday morning, becoming the favorite for gold as the only strong technical skier in the top 15 going into the afternoon slalom.

Ten has been on his mind for a while. Kostelic won his fourth medal Friday. Plenty of Winter Olympians have done that.

But add it to his retired younger sister’s medal total, and you get 10. That tied the record for most career Winter Olympic medals by a brother and sister. They matched retired Italian cross-country skiers Manuela and Giorgio di Centa.

Americans Jack and Shirley Babashoff won 11 swimming medals at the Summer Games.

“I’m very proud to point at a fact that this is the 10th (Winter) Olympic medal for family Kostelic,” he said. “We didn’t talk about that a lot, but people were often questioning what would be special about winning the next medal. The first thing on my mind is this No. 10. A lot of sportsmen have more Olympic medals, but no families.”

Both Janica and their father, Ante, were on hand Friday. Ante was tapped to set the slalom course layout, winning a lottery of national team coaches of highly ranked skiers. This fortunate turn of fate gave Kostelic an advantage.

Janica is the most decorated women’s Alpine skier in Olympic history with four golds and two silvers. She retired due to injuries at age 24 in 2007.

“Janica told me she is super happy,” Kostelic said. “That’s all.”

Kostelic has had a tough season so far, coming off his 11th career surgery and 10th to his right knee in May.

He’s posted one top-10 during the World Cup season after being among the top five in the slalom and super combined standings each of the previous six seasons.

“One of my worst seasons,” said Kostelic, who debuted on the World Cup in 1998. “This is a bright light.”
He will try for Kostelic medal No. 11 in the slalom on Feb. 22. He is the defending silver medalist, and it will likely be his final Olympic event.

He’s greedy. He wants gold.

“I am motivated,” he said. “This medal puts a lot of pressure off of me.”

USOC supports athletes expressing themselves after anthem protests

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PARK CITY, Utah — The U.S. Olympic Committee supports American athletes expressing themselves at winter sports events leading up to the PyeongChang Olympics.

Some MLB, NFL and WNBA players kneeled and remained in locker rooms during the national anthem at games over the weekend.

USOC CEO Scott Blackmun was asked Monday if the USOC would support American athletes peacefully protesting during the national anthem this fall and winter at pre-Games competition.

“I think the athletes that you see protesting are protesting because they love their country, not because they don’t,” Blackmun said at a pre-Winter Games media summit. “We fully support the right of our athletes and everybody else to express themselves. The Olympic Games themselves, there is a prohibition on all forms of demonstrations, political or otherwise. And that applies no matter what side of the issue you’re taking, no matter where you’re from. … But we certainly recognize the importance of athletes being able to express themselves.”

Blackmun was correct to reference the Olympic Charter, which states that “no kind of demonstration … is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas.”

Blackmun mentioned Tommie Smith and John Carlos‘ raised-fist salute at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, which got them kicked out of the Games by the IOC.

The USOC has honored Smith and Carlos. They visited the White House last year with the Rio Olympic team.

“That was a seminal moment not only for the Olympic Movement, but for the U.S. Olympic team,” Blackmun said of the 1968 podium gesture. “Our stance on this has been fairly clear. We certainly recognize the rights of the athletes to express themselves.”

Olympic hopefuls were peppered with questions about possible protests at the media summit.

“One of the proudest parts of being an American is the ability to have freedom of speech,” four-time Olympian Julia Mancuso said. “I really look up to athletes who take a stand for what they believe in. I really believe as athletes that compete for Team USA, when it comes to the Olympics, I like to think it’s a special event. Not like the NFL or pro sports teams that compete every weekend. For us, it’s every four years. I’m proud for athletes that stand up for what they believe in if they really want to have a message to get out. But I like to think of us all as patriotic.”

Elana Meyers Taylor, a two-time Olympic bobsled medalist, is the daughter of a U.S. Marine who served in Kuwait and spent summers in the 1980s playing at Atlanta Falcons training camps.

She said any decisions on demonstrations or whether she attends a post-Olympics Team USA White House visit come secondary to her pursuit of making the Olympic team this winter.

“I can’t afford to focus on what I would do in that situation or how I would react,” Meyers Taylor said, adding that anything would be a “game-time decision.” “Maybe the social climate changes a little bit [before the Olympics]. … There’s a lot to consider.”

Aja Evans, a 2014 Olympic bobsled bronze medalist, the sister of former NFL defensive tackle Fred Evans, did not say that she would follow the football players’ lead.

“I honor and commend anyone that does that,” Evans said. “My way of showing my stance is to continue to try to be a positive influence for my city, for my country. I’m representing Team USA the best way I can.”

NCAA hockey players Troy Terry and Jordan Greenway, both prospective Olympians with the NHL not participating, said they didn’t envision taking a knee during the “Star-Spangled Banner.”

“I’ve always stood for the national anthem,” Greenway said. “I always will.”

Olympic freestyle skiing medalists Maddie Bowman and Gus Kenworthy have said they plan to skip the traditional Team USA post-Olympic White House visit due to the current presidential administration.

Kenworthy repeated that stance on Monday. He said he was shocked that President Donald Trump believed that athletes kneeling during the national anthem disrespected the flag.

“Those people [servicemen and women] are fighting for the freedom to express their beliefs,” Kenworthy said. “I feel proud to be from a country where we have the right to be able to kind of say what we feel, speak up for what we believe in. I feel that people kneeling before a game is actually quite admirable.”

Kenworthy didn’t rule out a personal demonstration at the Olympics, should he qualify again, but knows he could be stripped of a medal for doing so.

“I’m not saying that I would want to be dictated by fear, and if I was to get a medal and be too scared that it would be taken away from me,” he said. “I think that there’s a way to do things in a way that’s not going to sabotage yourself. You can stand up for something and not throw yourself under the bus.”

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U.S. Olympic men’s hockey player from 2006 has shot at PyeongChang

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PARK CITY, Utah — Though no active NHL players will be in PyeongChang, veteran NHL forward and free agent Brian Gionta could very well play for his second U.S. Olympic team in February.

A USA Hockey official confirmed Monday that the 2006 Olympian Gionta “has a very decent opportunity” to be part of the 2018 Olympic team.

That came in response to a Buffalo radio report that Gionta said it’s looking good for him to play for Team USA.

Gionta, 38, played 15 NHL seasons through last year but is currently unsigned as the NHL preseason continues. The U.S. Olympic team of 25 players named around Jan. 1 is likely to include very few, if any, players with Gionta’s experience.

Gionta was seen at the Rochester (N.Y.) AHL club’s practice Monday (but not taking part), according to media in that area. Gionta could play for an AHL club and be eligible for PyeongChang. USA Hockey wants prospective Olympians to be active in the AHL, NCAA or a European league.

Gionta’s agent has not responded to a request for comment on his Olympic prospects on Monday. Earlier in the summer, Gionta’s agent said that the skater was considering the Olympics.

Gionta led the 2006 U.S. Olympic team with four goals. The Americans lost in the quarterfinals to Finland, their worst Olympic result over the last four Winter Games.

That came during Gionta’s most productive NHL season — 48 goals (sixth in the league) and 41 assists for the New Jersey Devils.

Another Olympian — Ryan Malone from 2010 — embarked on a comeback this preseason and could pursue the Olympics. He has been in camp with the Minnesota Wild. If he doesn’t make the Wild, Malone could play on an AHL contract and be eligible for the Olympics.

USA Hockey confirmed that other players in the potential Olympic pool — at some 100 players at the moment — include Nathan Gerbe. Gerbe, a 30-year-old forward, played 394 NHL games between the Buffalo Sabres and Carolina Hurricanes from 2008-16 before joining the Swiss League.

Another is goalie Ryan Zapolski, who ranks third in the KHL in goals-against average this season.

John-Michael Liles, a 2006 Olympic defenseman and unsigned NHL veteran, is not interested in continuing his career in a non-NHL league to be considered for the Olympics, USA Hockey said.

U.S. general manager Jim Johannson said this summer that he was interested in some players who “have a rich history in the NHL and with USA Hockey that we think could potentially really help this roster.” Johannson wouldn’t name names then.

Johansson said a “long list” of potential players for the final 25-man roster must be submitted in September.

A U.S. team of primarily European-based players will take part in a tournament in November in Germany. That roster is expected to be named in October.

The U.S. staff will also look at NCAA and AHL players ahead of naming the PyeongChang team.

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